April 9, 2017 + Sunday of the Passion – Palm Sunday

Holy Eucharist Rite II at 10:30 a.m. sung by the Youth and Adult Choirs, sermon by the Rev’d William Eakins.

Holy Eucharist Rite II at 10:30 a.m. sung by the Youth and Adult Choirs, sermon by the Rev’d William Eakins.

Worship at Home:

Click here for the Service Bulletin; scroll to read full sermon text.

Full Service Audio:

Sermon-only Audio:

Service Music:

Palm Procession from the Cloister Garden

Hymn in Procession 154    All glory, laud, and honor    Valet will ich dir geben

Kyrie Eleison S-84    Gregorian Chant, Orbis factor

Sequence Hymn 158    Ah, holy Jesus, how hast thou offended     Herzliebster Jesu
Sung in unison; men sing verse 2, women sing verse 3, all sing remaining verses.

Offertory Anthem      Sanctus (St. Cecilia Mass)    Charles Gounod (1818-1893)
Words from the Liturgy of the Eucharist
Soloist: Omar Mulero, tenor

Charles Gounod, because of his great popularity (especially from his operas) and his stylistic influence on the next generation of composers, was a towering figure in French music in the mid-nineteenth century. For two years he studied theology, but chose not to take holy orders; still, he was often referred to as “l’Abbé (Father) Gounod.” This mass setting is dedicated to Saint Cecilia (the patron saint of music), written in 1855.

Sanctus    Gregorian Chant, Deus Genitor alme

Agnus Dei    Gregorian Chant, Deus Genitor alme

Communion Anthem     Crucifixus    Antonio Lotti (1667-1740)

Aside from two years in Dresden producing operas, Antonio Lotti spent his entire career at St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, first as an alto singer, then as assisting assistant organist, assistant organist, main organist, and finally music director for the final four years of his life. Bach and Handel knew his work and may have been influenced by it. His 8-part setting of this brief text is justifiably famous, for its lavish dissonances and other expressive qualities so well suited to the event described.

Hymn in Procession 168    O sacred head, sore wounded    Passion Chorale

Assisting Organist: Kari Miller

 

Full Sermon Text:

I imagine you have seen many a hometown parade on Memorial Day or the Fourth of July.  I imagine you have seen little kids pedaling bikes trimmed with streamers, school bands earnestly trying to keep in step, and veterans of assorted wars proud that they can still fit into their uniforms.  Along the parade route you see daddies holding toddlers on their shoulders, mothers pushing babies in strollers, grandmas and grandpas, some of them in wheelchairs, and teenagers flirting.  When you take in the breadth of humanity in such a parade, it can bring a lump to your throat.

All of life is also there in the parade of characters we will encounter in the Passion Story this morning.  We will hear of fickle crowds, threatened authorities, a compromising politician, cynics and scoffers, soldiers carrying out their orders and a few who hope for something better.  We will recognize these people because we know them from our own experience.  And some of them will even bear an uncomfortable resemblance to our own selves.

Take for instance the fickle crowds.  These are the same folks who welcomed Jesus only days before, shouting ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’  and waving their palm branches.  Now only a few days later they shout, “Let him be crucified!” and “Give us Barabbas instead!”  As we say those words, we might feel a shiver because the words cut close to the bone because we are little different from those people of old Jerusalem.  We come to church and sing hymns and recite creeds that proclaim Jesus as Lord and then go out to speak and act in ways that deny any allegiance to Jesus.

We will meet Pilate, the Roman governor.  Pilate sees very clearly that Jesus is innocent and yet Pilate is perfectly willing to let an innocent man be put to a horrible death in order to please the crowd, keep the peace, and stay in power.  We are familiar with politicians like Pilate who are willing to sacrifice their integrity just to stay in office.  But are not all of us like Pilate whenever we lie to keep our jobs, wash our hands of responsibility instead of doing what is right, remain silent to keep a friendship, or sacrifice the truth for the easy way out or because we are afraid?

Then we will hear about the soldiers who do the dirty work of nailing Jesus to the cross.  The soldiers are the men and women of every generation and place who carry out the orders of those in authority.  They are just doing their job.  And are we not just like the soldiers whenever under the guise of minding our own business we abdicate accountability for what goes on in the world around us?  “It’s not my problem what happens in Syria or in Hartford; it’s just the way it is.  I can’t worry about refugees or health care reform or global warming.  I just need to deal with my own life because that’s all I can handle.”  And every time we turn away to mind our own business, do we not pound the nails deeper into the One who died for the whole world?

We will encounter plenty of cynics in the Passion Story.  There are people who don’t believe that there is anything or anyone who is ultimately good or true.  We will glimpse such cynicism in Pilate, in the soldiers and bystanders at the cross who take pleasure in mocking Jesus’ supposed kingship.  They cannot or will not see in the suffering of the crucified Jesus anything more than a figure of failure, someone to be made fun of.  Such cynicism has not ended.  Even children mock the weak among us.

But we will also meet two characters in the Passion Story who seem to rise above the sordidness of other characters.  There is Pilate’s wife who begs her husband to have no part in Jesus’ condemnation.  And finally, there are the Roman centurion and his companions who have the story’s final line: “Truly this man was God’s Son.”

There is much in the parade of characters in the Passion Story to make us weep about the frailty of our faith, for we are little different from those folks in Jerusalem 2000 years ago.  But the Good News of Christ’s Passion Story is that God is right there in the midst of that parade of characters.  God loves the fickle crowds, Pontius Pilate, and his soldiers; God loves the mockers and the cynics and God loves us.  The question we are left with is what will we make of the Passion Story?  Is it merely the record of our failure, the same old endless parade of human foibles?  Or is the Passion Story amazing and life-changing Good News, Good News of how God so loves you and me and ALL the world?  If it is, then there is hope for ourselves and for the world and we have got a job to do.